RedTri: 58 Ways to See the Christmas Ships in Seattle

Be sure to put this one on your must-do list of kid-friendly holiday events. Beloved by natives and newbies alike, the Christmas Ship Festival is a tried and true Northwest family tradition dating back to 1949. Running through December 23, the ship parade route covers over 45 different waterfront communities around Lake Washington and Puget Sound. Whether you and the kids choose to enjoy the ships on shore (singing ‘round a bonfire with a mug of hot cocoa), on board (mingling with Santa) or at a local restaurant, here are our top picks.

Ride the Christmas Ship
Every year Argosy Cruises pulls out all the stops with the spectacularly decorated Spirit of Seattle, the designated Christmas Ship that all the other boats follow. On board, a local choir sings 20 minute programs at scheduled shore side locations (see schedule below), and Santa mingles with the kiddos. Other on-board activities include sing-a-longs, a Ho-Ho-Ho contest and a children's activity corner. The boat has two fully enclosed, heated decks, one outside deck, restrooms and a cash bar. You can also pre-purchase boxed meals for $9-$15. Cost: $25-$35 for adults, $12-$19 for kids ages 5 – 12, free for kids 4 and under.

Ride a Parade Ship
Parade Ships follow the Christmas Ship but don’t have an on-board choir. Fully enclosed with outside areas, restrooms and a cash bar, parade ships also include sing-a-longs, a kids' activity area and a Ho-Ho-Ho contest. A special holiday character (not Santa – he’s already busy, see above) will also be on board. All parade ships position themselves alongside the Christmas Ship so all can enjoy the choral performances. Cost: $25 for adults, $12 for kids ages 5-12, free for 4 and under. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445.

Family Night Early Dinner Cruise & Buffet
This option allows families to enjoy the parade on-board the elegantly appointed Royal Argosy. The four-course buffet includes Alder plank Alaskan Salmon, Pasta Primavera, chef-carved Honey Baked Ham and Rosemary Crusted Turkey. Salads and desserts are served table side. Note: The Royal Argosy only follows the parade on some evenings so be sure to check the schedule or call if you want to ride this boat on a parade night. Cost: Sunday - Thursday: $89 for adults, $29 for ages 5 – 12, free for kids 4 and under. Friday and Saturday: $99 for adults, $39 for ages 5 – 12, free for kids 4 and under. Family Night cost: $59 for adults, $10 for ages 5 – 12, free for kids 4 and under.

Royal Argosy Santa Brunch
This is a great on-board option for little ones with early bedtimes, also on-board the Royal Argosy. You’ll miss the lights but get plenty of action: arts and crafts, a live performer, story time with Santa, a yummy brunch and picture opps galore. Santa Brunch cruises depart from various locations like Pier 56 downtown or Carillon Point in Kirkland and run from 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays in December. Cost: $37 for adults, $10 for ages 5-12, free for 4 and under. Reserve online or call 206-623-1445.

Cozy Up at a Local Restaurant
There are too many options here to list, but here’s the idea: check the sailing schedule below and pick a primo viewing location with nearby waterfront restaurants, like Lake Union, Alki, Gig Harbor, Redondo Beach or Leschi. Places like Duke’s, Anthony’s HomePort, Salty’s and Ivar’s Salmon House are all great options with outdoor viewing decks so you and your family can feast your eyes on a panorama of glowing boats while also enjoying a fine meal.

On Shore: Lake Washington, Lake Union, Elliot Bay and Puget Sound Parks
Whether it’s your neighborhood beach park or a stunning downtown location like the sculpture park, when the Christmas Ships sail past it’s a truly spectacular sight. Many locations will have a bonfire going, which are noted below. Bundle up the kids, grab some friends, a thermos of hot cocoa and go! Times listed below detail when the parade will stop and broadcast choir performances over their state-of-the-art sound system. A full schedule, including sailing departure times and private events, can be found here.

Thursday, December 1 Opening Night: Kirkland Marina & Gas Works Park
Choir: Con Brio Women’s Choir
6:30-7:00 Opening Ceremony, Kirkland Marina Park
7:05-7:25 Kirkland Marina Park
8:20-8:40 Gas Works Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Friday, December 2: Newcastle and Gene Coulon Parks
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:00-8:20 Gene Coulon Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:50-9:10 Newcastle (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday December 3: Medina & Kirkland
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
4:10-4:30 Medina Beach
5:10-5:30 Houghton Beach

December 3: Late Night at Madrona (second sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
9:25-9:45 Madrona Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday December 4: South Seattle Beach Parks
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
5:40-6:00 Ferdinand Street Park
6:15-6:35 Stan Sayres Memorial Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:45-7:05 Mt. Baker Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Monday, December 5: Pritchard Beach & Seward Park
Choir: Choir of the Sound
7:50-8:10 Pritchard Beach Park
8:25-8:45 Seward Park (bonfire location)

Tuesday, December 6: Tacoma & Gig Harbor
Choir: St. Martin’s University Chorale
7:00-7:20 Tacoma Glass Museum
8:30-8:50 Gig Harbor

Wednesday December 7: Ballard Locks and Golden Gardens
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:10-8:30 Ballard Locks
9:05-9:25 Golden Gardens Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 8: Tacoma and Des Moines
Choir: Rainier Youth Choir – Conosare
7:55-8:15 Brown’s Point
8:50-9:10 Redondo Beach

Friday, December 9: Downtown Seattle
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:05-8:25 Manchester City Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:15-9:35 Olympic Sculpture Park

Saturday, December 10: Downtown Seattle
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
4:10-4:30 Pier 66
5:15-5:35 Seacrest Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 10: West Seattle (second sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:50-9:10 Lowman Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
9:40-10:00 Alki Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday December 11: Carkeek & Blue Ridge
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
6:00-6:20 Carkeek Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
6:30-6:50 Blue Ridge

Monday, December 12: Bainbridge Island & Harbor Island
Choir: Soundwave
7:30-7:50 Winslow Waterfront Beach
8:40-9:00 Don Armeni Boat Ramp (bonfire/special lighting location)  

Tuesday, December 13: Edmonds
Choir: The Everett Chorale
7:10-7:30 Edmonds Fishing Pier
8:20-8:40 Richmond Beach Saltwater Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Wednesday, December 14: Poulsbo and Keyport
Choir: North Kitsap Northern Lights
7:00-7:20 Poulsbo Marina
7:45-8:05 Keyport
8:20-8:35 Lemolo

Thursday December 15: Des Moines and Dash Point
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:10-7:30 Des Moines Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)
8:10-8:30 Dash Point

Saturday, December 17: Kirkland and Madison Park
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
3:55-4:15 Kirkland Marina Park
4:55-5:15 Madison Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Saturday, December 17: Sheridan & Matthews Beach (second sailing)
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:55-9:15 Sheridan Beach Club
9:45-10:05 Matthews Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Sunday, December 18: Kenmore and Juanita
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
6:00-6:20 Tracy Owen Station (Log Boom Park) Kenmore
7:00-7:20 Juanita Beach Park

Monday, December 19: Kirkland and Laurelhurst
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:00-7:20 O.O. Denny Park,, Kirkland
8:00-8:20 Laurelhurst Beach Club

Tuesday, December 20: Kirkland and Meydenbauer Bay
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
6:45-7:05 Carillon Point, Kirkland
7:45-8:05 Meydenbauer Bay (bonfire location)

Wednesday, December 21: Magnuson Beach
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
8:20-8:40 Warren G. Magnuson Beach Park (bonfire/special lighting location)

Thursday, December 22: Mercer Island and Yarrow Point
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
7:50-8:10 Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island
8:50-9:10 Yarrow Point Beach Park, Yarrow Point

Friday, December 23: Matthews Beach and Waverly Beach
Choir: The Dickens Carolers
4:00-4:20 Matthews Beach Park, Seattle (bonfire/special lighting location)
5:00-5:20 Waverly Beach Park, Kirkland

Friday, December 23: Portage Bay & Gas Works Grand Finale
Choir: Seattle Girls’ Choir – Prime Voci
8:45-9:05 Portage Bay (W. Montlake Park)
9:45-10:05 Gas Works Park Grand Finale (bonfire/special lighting location)


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